When Christina Beu was asked by faculty advisors of Saint Leo University to help plan last year’s alternative spring break service trip to Atlanta, she jumped in and planned every aspect of the trip from start to finish.
But that’s just how Bradenton resident Beu does things, said Deacon William Ditewig, a theology professor at Saint Leo and one of the academic advisors for the trip.
“Christina took the lead,” he said. “I simply gave her the names and phone numbers, and she ran with it.”
Beu is not the average 22-year-old college student, said Ditewig, one of several professors who mentored Beu at Saint Leo. “She’s an exceptional person. She’s an excellent student, a very dynamic person, and a hard worker. She always takes on the tough assignments and does them well.”
Never miss a local story.
Born in Bradenton, Beu’s inspiration came from her mother, a single parent, and her parish, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, according to the Deacon Bob Nimon of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Bradenton, who has known Beu for the past 11 years.
As a young girl, she started volunteering as an altar server. At 16, she was named Altar Server of the Year by the Catholic Diocese. Before long, she was asked by the deacon to help train new altar servers.
“I was impressed with how well she handled herself,” Nimon said. “You tell her something once, she did it and she did it well. She was by far always the best, bright, young lady that loves God.”
And even today when the church comes up shorthanded for altar servers, she still steps in to help.
“She’s a great young kid,” Nimon said. “She was always willing to do things.”
Passion to help
Beu has spent many a summer vacation working at the St. Joseph’s food pantry, according to Nimon. She started out helping one day a week, but after a couple of years, started spending at least three days a week at the pantry.
Even though it is run primarily by older volunteers, Beu’s participation was welcomed.
“She has just grown on everyone in this parish,” Nimon said. “They know her and love her.”
Beu also served on the parish council and helped organize her church’s youth group. She started helping out as a sophomore in high school, and by her senior year, was organizing all of the youth group meetings and activities.
Beu said she is driven by her faith and her passion to help people.
“I love my church,” Beu said. “It has meant so much to me. I wanted to give back and make it better for future generations.”
It was while a sophomore at Manatee High School that Beu decided she wanted to pursue a career in religion. She chose to study theology at Saint Leo University, a Catholic University north of Tampa, and wants to eventually teach.
The desire to study theology is “innate,” she said.
“I have to attribute it to God,” she said. “I think he’s calling me to do this. I will never know enough. There will always be questions.”
Thrived at Saint Leo
While at Saint Leo, Beu thrived both intellectually and spiritually, according to Father Tony Kissel, chair of the religion department for undergraduates who met Christina as a freshman when she took his Theology and Contemporary Film course. Kissel was impressed by Beu’s commitment, intelligence, faith, and communication skills.
Beu helped develop a theology and religion honor society at Saint Leo.
She also was a student chaplain for University Ministries, and was involved in the ministries’ service group, Samaritan and pro life group, Imago Dei.
“Christina became a student whom we professors and our department greatly depended upon,” Kissel said. “She is an excellent steward of her talents, especially the great treasure of her faith.”
Beu was viewed by many as “an ambassador to the theology department,” with talents well beyond her years.
The department felt so confident about Beu’s abilities and her future in religion, they recognized her on Academic Excellence Day as their “2009 Outstanding Senior Student.”
Members of Saint Leo University’s Department of Philosophy, Theology and Religion said Beu “will be missed by both her professors and peers.”
“Christina frequently serves as a source of strength and comfort to her peers, they said. “Such compassion for and grace amidst her peers has been characteristic of Christina throughout her time at Saint Leo University and in the various leadership roles she has undertaken here.”
On May 2, Beu graduated cum laude from Saint Leo University with a bachelor of arts in theology.
Before leaving Saint Leo’s, she secured a complete financial aid package with a paid assistantship at the prestigious Providence College in Rhode Island, something few students acquire, according to her professors.
Beu is an intelligent, motivated young woman that is not wasting any of her “God-given talents,” Nimon said. Wherever she goes, she is going to make an impact, he said.
“She’s the kind of girl you want to know,” Nimon said. “She has the love of life and faith. Loving God is one of her strengths.”